The Judo Alberta coach of the year is humbled by the honour.
them to choose me over a lot of the high level coaches in the province
is incredible. It’s something that I would’ve never ever really dreamed
of,” said Amy Harris, an NCCP Level 1 coach at the Hayabusa Training
Harris, 27, was nominated for
the award, presented annually by the Alberta Kodokan Black Belt
Association. Requirements include: coaching athletes at provincial or
national tournaments; demonstrates and abides by the coaching code of
ethics and has made significant contribution to the growth of judo in
“I was actually really surprised so it’s pretty surreal,” said the first-degree (shodan) black belt.
is the head instructor of the children and youth judo programs at the
Hayabusa club and the students range in age from four to 15.
program is so young being only seven years old, whereas all the other
judo programs in the province are probably 50, 60 years old. They’ve
been around for a long, long time and they’re very developed and we’re
pretty new in the sport,” Harris said. “It’s pretty amazing to be
recognized as coach of the year since we’re only seven years into the
Harris has been mentoring kids since obtaining her Early Childhood Development Certification in 2006.
worked with kids for a very long time and it’s been one of my
passions,” she said. “I want to be able to help kids. A lot of them who
come to me are either troubled kids or ones with some learning
disabilities. They can’t just go to any sport and be successful so
through my teaching methods I’m able to have them be successful. They
learn discipline and show dedication that a lot of parents say they’ve
never been able to do before.
“To be able
to do that with kids and helping them grow as students is amazing and
for them to get that self confidence that they never had before is what
makes me want to keep coming back and teaching them.”
Her coaching philosophy revolves around having fun.
matter what you do with them as long as they’re having fun they’re
going to be coachable,” said Harris, who is busy preparing eligible
students for the 2016 Alberta Winter Games and nationals. “It’s going to
make them respond a lot better than just being so strict that they
don’t even want to be there so we have a lot of fun. We play different
drills and some you can call them games but they’re really drills and
exercises that get them doing movements that they need, to be able to do
“They have fun, they learn and it creates discipline.”
Building confidence is another rewarding aspect as a coach.
they come in and their heads are down, boys and girls, we just try to
keep their head up so confidence is huge. That takes a lot of time and
when we’re able to finally build their confidence then they’re able to
kind of let you in and be able to coach them to be able to learn
techniques that they’re able to do.”
Harris also takes pride as a role model for females.
the beginning we had very little girls, usually it was only boys in
this sport so being a female growing up in the sport I had only male
training partners, even right from five years old and up I always
trained with boys. Now probably at least over half of our program is
girls so it’s amazing to be able to coach them to get to the next level
and have fun and learn just basic self defence,” said the certified
personal fitness trainer, corrective exercise specialist, TRX suspension
training instructor, yoga for athletes instructor who also has her
Olympic weightlifting certification.
Her mandate is to spread awareness about the martial arts and the importance of making positive decisions.
a kid growing up in martial arts it changed my outlook on a lot of
things in life. When you’re in school there is a lot of those pressures
to make different choices so when you’re in sports and athletics and
martial arts you get a lot of respect for yourself and you show respect
to others, whether it’s your teachers, your peers or your other
classmates so to be able to teach that to other kids at a young age
where you can a make a difference is something you can’t really explain
as a coach.”
Harris credits Keith Bibbey of the Tolide Judo Kwai in Fort Saskatchewan as her guiding light as a coach.
pretty much had a kind of a no BS mentality in the sense that if you
want to do well you show up to practice, you train hard and you go to
every tournament and every training camp. You pretty much eat, sleep and
breathe judo,” said Harris (nee Bienert), who joined the Fort
Saskatchewan club at age five and had to be convinced to experience her
first competition. “At times as an early teen you can kind of have those
moments where you don’t want to listen. It’s like you know everything
and he was very good at keeping it balanced while getting you ready for
that tournament. He would always make notes and say this girl is doing
this, how do we train to beat her and how do we train to improve. He was
always really good at bringing stuff back to the club so I could train
properly to be successful at my next event. Even if you won there were
still things to work on so we would always tweak things to make it
better for the next time.
inspirational that way. He put in a lot of effort. A lot of people don’t
realize as a coach what really goes into the team. It’s not just that
couple of hours a week on the mats, there is a lot above and beyond what
your coach goes through for the athletes so it’s good to kind of show
the appreciation back to students.”
Judo has engulfed her life, from competitor to coach.
reason I’ve stuck with it so many years is the environment of it. It’s
not just at practice, which I always had fun going to, but it’s like
when you go to tournaments and training camps you build relationships
outside of your home team that last a lifetime,” said the Ardrossan High
School alumna. “Putting hours in training is hard. It’s not just
anybody that can put in the hours training, there has to be more than
that to be able to get longevity out of the sport and for myself it’s
probably the friend aspect of it and being able to meet new people.”
was 13 when she competed at her first nationals in junior and in her
fifth and last nationals she won bronze as a brown belt in the U18
minus-57 kilogram division in 2005.
The multiple provincial champion was also named the Judo Alberta IJF female athlete of the year in 2005.
next year Harris was the only female selected by Judo Alberta to train
with the French national team in Paris before competing on the
international stage for Canada in Arlon, Belgium and finished fourth
“That was a very pivotal year I
would say in my life. My best friend (Stephanie Kerr) who I trained with
died that year and so I didn’t want to train anymore and I didn’t want
to do tournaments but my coaches convinced me to try and do one more
year so I did. That was the year I ended up getting my bronze on the
podium and then I got invited to go to Europe so it was a pretty big
year for me.”